How to Query a Book Review Blogger by Anne R. Allen

Dear Readers (can I write dear readers without sounding twee? I don’t think so, but anyhow…) –
Earlier this week I had a bit of a professional crisis wondering how the heck a little ant like me could make it to the top of the publishing heap when those who had made it were making a concerted effort to be jerks. My post about the skulduggery of R.J. Ellory reached more than a few people who were outraged, but also had been around enough to know that he is just one bad example in a world filled with people that truly to go out of their way to help others.
Anne R. Allen, author, blogger, speaker, and all around decent human being that would never write a spiteful review of anyone’s work, commented on my post, and added a link. The topic, one which I had been discussing at length with another writer that is struggling as much as I am, how to query a book review blogger. The very thing I’d been biting my lip and scrunching my nose trying to figure out. And voila – in the way that only these things can happen serendipitously, the answer was presented to me.
I have cut and paste Anne’s recommendations below. I do encourage you to have a look at the full post. We may have Anne around later, so please feel free to leave your thoughts, impressions, and questions.

How do you find interested book bloggers?

The best way is to check similar books in your genre—especially those that have been recently released. Do a search for those titles with the word “review” and read as many reviews as you can. Make a list of the reviewers you like and read the review policy.

Almost no blogger will take all types of books. Some only read traditionally-published paper books; others want only indie ebooks for Kindle. Some specialize in Nook. They almost always have specific genre requests, so read carefully, and always follow them. Even if the blogger agrees to do a review outside their genre, you won’t reach the right readers. People don’t go to a chick lit review site to discover the latest zombie gore-fest.

How do you approach them?

You should make initial contact with a query—the same way you approach other gatekeepers like literary agents and editors. This means you send a professional letter—not a Tweet or wall post on Facebook.

Here are some general rules for scoring a review:

  • Read the guidelines carefully.
  • Then, um, follow the guidelines carefully.
  • Never send an unsolicited book: query first.
  • Don’t query with books outside the prescribed genre. Personalize the query.
  • Keep queries short and intriguing.
  • Don’t take it personally if they turn you down. Reading takes a lot of time and most of them are swamped.
  • Understand the review is for the READER, not the writer, so negative reviews happen.
  • If you get a less than stellar review, mourn in private and move on. NEVER respond to a negative review.

Last November I interviewed popular childrens’ book blogger Danielle Smith of There’s a Book, and she gave some great advice on how to get your book reviewed by a blogger. She says the best way to approach a book blogger is to keep your query professional, but show some personality.

Reviewer Danielle Smith’s guidelines for authors:
  1.  Make sure you address the blogger by name
  2. Include a two to four sentence synopsis—no longer
  3. Keep personal information to a minimum. And don’t guilt-trip.
  4. Attach an image of the book cover
  5. Give the age range of the intended audience
  6. Include the page count (for print books)
  7. Provide the publication date and expected time frame of when you’d like to see the review posted for scheduling purposes.
  8. Don’t ask for a review outside the blogger’s genre
  9. Don’t query if you don’t have a website or a blog. (That screams “unprofessional” to a blogger.)

In other words, treat the book blogger like a professional and she will reciprocate.

If you want to know more about book bloggers and how to approach them, Danielle Smith is leading a panel at the Central Coast Writers’ Conference with several Book Bloggers, including Amy Riley of My Friend Amy, and Pam Van Hylckama Vleig aka Bookalicious Pam who is also an agent with San Francisco agency Larsen-Pomada.

And if you want to read some genuine, not-paid-for Amazon reviews, here are some hilarious ones for a set of Bic pens.

How about you, scriveners? Would you ever consider paying for reviews? Does this change your opinion of John Locke? Do you read book review blogs?

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15 thoughts on “How to Query a Book Review Blogger by Anne R. Allen

  1. I think having any helpful information regardless of whether it’s a major peice of info or a tiny snippet that you happen to stumble across, it all helps an author who has many hurdles to jump. This was a very handy peice of info 🙂

  2. Pingback: How to Query a Book Review Blogger by Anne R. Allen « Yvonne Hertzberger

  3. Thanks so much for reposting this piece. It’s important to spread the word. Book bloggers are the (mostly-unpaid) heroes of the brave new publishing world. Following a good book blogger in your favorite genre is the best way to get an honest, accurate picture of what’s out there in both trad-pubbed and self-pubbed fiction. But a lot of people (especially professional publicists) treat them with contempt. The best way to get an honest review is treat them with respect.

    Another thing we can all do to combat the RJ Ellroys out there is WRITE REVIEWS yourself. Every time you finish a book, make a habit of going to Amazon and leaving a couple of sentences about it that will help the next reader make a decision. It doesn’t have to be a rave. If you didn’t like it, say why. “A good police procedural, but I expected it to be chick lit and this was way too dark and gritty for me.” is an honest take (although I wouldn’t give an author a total one-star because you chose a book out of your genre.) But every honest review balances out the phony ones.

    And–shameless plug here–this information as well as tons of other stuff you need to navigate the treacherous waters of the wild new publishing world–is available in a book I wrote with “Pay it Forward’s” author Catherine Ryan Hyde. HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE…AND KEEP YOUR E-SANITY! The ebook is priced under $3 and aimed at an international market. Available in the UK in paper and ebook at Amazon and soon to be available for all ereaders: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Writer-E-Age-Keep-E-Sanity-ebook/dp/B008EKT5UE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1347207145&sr=8-1 Our publisher offers free updates every six months.

    Thanks for inviting me here, Livia!

    • Thank you again Anne! I’ve spent my morning courting book bloggers using your advice.

      Your point about leaving an honest and fair review is an excellent one. It is important to get into the habit of writing reviews. I know that I do read the reviews for books before I buy them – even the free downloads. Writing objectively is also extremely important. “You suck and your books sucks too”, isn’t really helpful. “The main characters were two dimensional and lacked warmth”, is helpful.

  4. Livia–you bring up an important point. A good review is always about the book–never about the author. Your examples are great. What you think of the writer as a person is not relevant. This is why I think the cybervigilantes who use one-star reviews of books they’ve never read to punish authors for transgressions–real or imagined–are the worst abusers of all. Abusing the review system to say that abusing the review system is bad is….just plain nuts.

  5. Pingback: Book Bloggers are an Indie's Best Friend | mohanalakshmi.com

  6. Pingback: The movie review blog is now “She Reviews Everything” | The Claire Violet Thorpe Express

  7. Great post! A book review is just that, a “book” review, I have never been able to wrap my mind around people who can’t separate the book from the author or the actor from the film. xo

    • There does seem to be a lot of blurring of the lines when it comes to book reviews. An author’s personal life and choices aren’t really relevant when it comes to judging their work. But that doesn’t mean that readers don’t turn a review of someone’s work, into a commentary on their life.

  8. Pingback: SEEN This Week 9/17/12 | The Book Shelf

  9. As a mere poet , reviews do not bug me , there just opinion, the best review is from a reader, who chooses to let you know, but that said your article, was beautifully written , informative and to the point, with wit and charm, which is a trick in its self, for that many thanks

  10. Pingback: Charging? For a Book Review? | Closed the Cover

  11. I agree with every suggestion you posted especially the one that said, “provide the publication date and expected time frame of when you’d like to see the review posted for scheduling purposes.” I am typically booked for a minimum of three to four months out and it makes it so much easier for me to determine if I can take on a book or not if I know when they are looking to have the review online. Also, authors need to be reasonable and it’s not reasonable to send a request and expect to have a review within a week or two. It takes time. I’m also specific about the genres I won’t read which include erotica and paranormal. I’m very clear about that and even outline it on the request page yet I will still get requests for those books. I tend to not even reply to those requests.

    Oh, and when a request includes my name or references something specific about my website (such as: Hello Ashley, I noticed you shared a favorable review of **book title** recently and I thought you might enjoy my book as well since it is also a historical fiction based around the same era in US History). That says to me that they took at least 5 minutes to look around before submitting the request. If they take the time to indicate at least minor familiarity with me I’m much more willing to make time to include their book in my schedule.

    Ashley
    http://www.closedthecover.com

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